Since my last two posts put together are longer than 3 of my “normal” posts combined, I figured I better do a shorter post this time. It’s still on gaming, but this is more illustrative than explanatory. I want to demonstrate some of the principles I like to stick to as a GM by talking about my character in the 5e game I’m running for my boys: Arkan Kupriveryx.
So first let’s start out with why I have a PC. I’m the GM; techincally speaking, I can’t have a PC, as I am not a P. All characters run by the GM are NPCs, by definition. But this is a tradition that my old gaming group started many moons ago. The basic reasoning behind it goes like this: Say the current GM gets tired of being in charge and wants to hand over the reigns to someone else. If the GM doesn’t run a “PC,” then the former GM has to roll up a new character, and we have to find an in-story way to integrate with the group. And what happens to the former PC of the new GM? So much easier if there’s an NPC who is a real part of the party—
Also, having an extra PC around can be way useful if your group is small. Without Arkan, our party would be two PCs, and that’s just not enough to survive in a typical D&D world. Especially when one of them is brand new to the game. Plus, having an “NPC PC” allows you (the GM) to funnel information directly into the party when you want to, without having to invent clumsy expository devices. So that’s nice.
Anyhow, I knew I wanted to create a PC, and my typical modus operandi when starting a new campaign is to let everyone else come up with their concepts first, then I fill in the gaps. I consider it a really interesting challenge to take a character whose abilities and features are mostly predetermined by party need and then find a way to turn that into a cool character concept. In this case, we had a druid, and a rogue with some arcane abilities.1 So what we really needed was a bruiser—
“But I hate playing fighters!” I whined to my eldest. This is true: in all my years of playing D&D, I’ve only ever played a straight-up fighter twice, and I hated it both times.2
“Play a paladin,” he replied. “We could use the extra healing anyway.” Druids can heal, true, but not when in their animal forms. And obviously the Smaller Animal was interested in running around as a dinosaur most of the time.
“But I hate paladins even more than fighters!!” I double whined. This is also true: I dislike rangers and paladins3 because I think they shouldn’t have spellcasting abilities. But I hate paladins even more than rangers4 because paladins are goody-goodies. I don’t like Superman, I don’t like Captain America, I don’t like Galad from Wheel of Time, I don’t like Miko from Order of the Stick ... I don’t like paladins. I even find Lancelot a bit annoying, if I’m honest.5
But I could see that he was right. A paladin was exactly what the party needed: excellent melee skills and reliable healing powers. So I took a look at the paladin subclasses, and I discovered something really interesting: there are 3 paladin subclasses, and only 1 of them is actually a paladin. The “Oath of Devotion” subclass represents the traditional D&D paladin. Then there’s the “Oath of the Ancients,” which is more of a green knight, which is interesting, but then there’s the “Oath of Vengeance,” which is ... well, frankly, it’s just friggin’ awesome. Oh, it’s not that powerful—
So I decided I wanted to punch up my avenger a bit with some arcane power, to supplement my eldest’s arcane rogue a bit (and to keep myself from getting too bored with the character). I kind of wanted to go warlock, because I really love that class. But in the end I decided that warlock doesn’t really lend itself to multiclassing very well, so sorcerer was a better way to go. So right now Arkan is a dragonborn dragon sorcerer6 1 / avenger paladin 2 (although paladins don’t actually hit their subclass until 3rd level, so he’s not really an “avenger” yet—
That’s fairly long for a “short” post, so I think I’ll wait until next week to tell you all about Arkan’s backstory and describe his general look.
1 Although not an arcane trickster, for those of you familiar with the D&D subclass system. It’s a 3rd party archetype called a shadow warrior. Pretty cool, actually.
2 To satisfy my craving for the unusual and non-traditional, I played a non-standard race both times: once a half-ogre, and once an alaghi.
3 As I mentioned last week in one of the footnotes.
4 Even though I actually like the paladin’s signature ability (lay on hands) much more than the ranger’s signature ability (favored enemy). Mainly because every version of favored enemy I’ve ever seen is worthless, either at low levels or at high levels, and occasionally both.
5 And, as I’ve stated before, I believe Lancelot to be the ur-paladin.
6 By which I mean a sorcerer with the draconic bloodline: more on that next week.
7 I’m pretty sure I’m going to be accused of min-maxing for taking sorcerer first, because people will think I specifically did that in order to get the Con save. Honestly, I didn’t even think about it until afterwards: I specifically started out with sorcerer for backstory reasons, which we shall see next week.
8 Or feat acquisition, assuming my GM allows it. Oh, wait: I am the GM. I think I’ll allow it.